Troops to Trades Scholarships

“I don’t want to work in an office.”

That’s what my husband told me when he informed me he’d decided on a career in law enforcement after he retired from the Army. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many veterans express. After years spent in the field, being mobile, interacting with people and the elements, they have a hard time picturing themselves attached to a desk in a cubicle. Well, the people behind the Troops to Trade Scholarships can understand that and they have an alternative.

Started in 2013 by the Nexstar Legacy Foundation, the non-profit arm of the for profit Nexstar® Network, the Troops to Trade Scholarship program looks to give veterans initial training in the HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration), plumbing, and electrical fields, industries the US Department of Labor expects to grow 21% faster than average over the next decade. Scholarship winners receive training, up to four weeks in length, with all training, travel food and lodging expenses covered by the scholarship.

There are two scholarship categories available: the Troops to Trades Professional Scholarship, for those interested in the sales, customer service, or management side of things, and the Build-a-Tech training scholarships, which are for people who want to become the subject matter experts and actually get into the down-and-dirty, nuts-and-bolts of the industry. All scholarships for veterans are given out in honor of Jim “Buddha” Potts, a two-tour Vietnam Veteran and former POW and Purple Heart recipient.

Basic Eligibility:

–          Applicants must be citizens or legal residents of the USA, Canada, Australia, or Grand Cayman

–          Applicants must be a military veteran; preference will be given to veterans returning from deployment.

–          Applicants must be planning to enter into the HVACR, plumbing, or electrical fields (for the professional side, this includes the operations, marketing, and accounting sides of the fields)

The application can be completed online. It contains multiple sections, such as educational background and community, activity, and leadership achievements (this section requires four examples and can be anything from home responsibilities, to military awards, to church involvement), but each section is fairly short and straightforward . It also includes four essay questions, one on how your military service prepared you for service in this industry, one on your career goals and how this program can help you achieve them, one on why you think you’ll be successful in this industry, and one on why you think you deserve the scholarship.

The application is a bit different from other scholarship applications I’ve seen. For example, in a novel twist, essay questions can answered in writing or in video format. Also, for employment experience in the industry, you can list any relevant do-it-yourself work. In the military experience section, instead of dates of service and duty assignments, they want answers to questions such as “What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment during your military service?”

In addition to the application, applicants will need to provide:

–          Copy of the DD-214

–          Standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.), if you have them

–          Official transcripts (high school and/or college)

–          1-3 letters of recommendation

–          Proof of community/activity/leadership achievements

All documents can be submitted online with your application.

The scholarship deadline is a little fuzzy. Their homepage states that it is March 14, 2014, but their application page shows a rolling application process, open through the duration of 2014, and, according to a recent post on their Facebook page, they still had money to give away at the end of January. Either way, now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity, and I suggest getting your application in sooner rather than later.

Also, in addition to the Troops to Trades Scholarships, you are eligible, and even encouraged to apply, for Nexstar’s other Professional and Build-a-tech Scholarships, which cover between $1,000 and $6,000 apiece, and are for longer term training at a college, university, or tech school. Applications for those scholarships can be found on the same link and the deadline for those is March 14, 2014, with winners announced in May and scholarships disbursed starting in September.

So, if you’re looking for a post-military career and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this program might be for you. More information on the programs and the application can be found at: and

To find out more about the industry, go to

© 2014 – 2020, Sarah Maples LLC. All rights reserved.

Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer and an Afghanistan veteran. She is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in veteran, military, and defense topics.

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  • Reply
    Renee Cardarelle
    12 March 2014 at 19:45

    We are busy expanding the Troops to Trades program and have changed to just one application, then asked people to fill out their area of interest in the application. We also will soon have a landing page that will feature businesses that want to hire veterans across the US.

    • Reply
      13 March 2014 at 03:23

      Thank you for the update! Looking forward to see how the program expands.

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